If you plan to absentmindedly scoff down several Mini Snickers bars this Halloween because you think the token word “mini” might work its magic on your figure, think again. It’s important to look at a combination of factors while choosing the perfect candy. Some call it picking your poison but, for holiday’s sake, let’s call it picking your pleasure.
“My plan for Halloween in terms of food is to take advantage of some of the candy specials at the pharmacy,” says Roni Sherman, a Concordia English literature student. “I like to treat myself to the fancy stuff like Lindt and Godiva.”
This Cho’cola bakery employee’s sugar addiction is fuelled by her 15-hour a week job. “I’m not allowed to just eat everything at the store, but I always want to taste things. If something is broken I’ll munch on it,” Sherman admits.
The first task is to address why candy consumption is so stigmatized nowadays. Increased sugar intake, combined with increased portion sizes and a high-fat diet, all contribute to obesity according to researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center for The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This news is far from new, but due to candy’s addictive properties, we turn a blind tongue to the facts.
Whether you’re going to be at a house party this Halloween, or feeding the good stuff to kids dressed in Miley Cyrus gear, it’s important to know the facts before you swallow them.
According to a Biotechnology and Molecular Biology Review produced by the department of biology at North Carolina Central University, “The impetus for the search for alternative and non-caloric sweeteners [â€¦] has historically been for better health for diabetics and also for weight control.”
Conversely, nasty ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, a cheap form of glucose and fructose, are added to candies, baked goods and condiments in excessive amounts, some of which you will most likely be indulging in next week. “Studies published in the last 10 years [â€¦] suggest a correlation between increased consumption of HFCS with increased incidence of obesity and cardiovascular diseases,” the review showed.
In keeping with the criteria that constitutes “bad” candy, here are your best picks:
- The Jelly Belly Company’s name is misleading, since indulging in them in excess will leave evidence all over your body, not just your tummy. At four calories a bean you’re likely to have handfuls of the addictive atomic-sized sugar munchkins, costing you way over the 140 calories allotted to the 35 bean recommended limit. Thank the Lord of Candies for inventing sugar-free Jelly Bellies, which come in a myriad of lip-smacking flavours, setting you back a small 80 calories for 35 beans. And get this â€“ a serving contains eight grams of fibre. The package suggests limiting yourself to eight beans when starting off, as they “may cause a laxative effect.” Don’t worry, you’re not immature; I laughed, too.
- Peppermint Patties: Normally, I’d recommend gum for those of you who need a quick mint fix, but chewing laboriously on a piece of rubber is no fun during the holidays. When the kid with the pumpkin stickers on his face knocks on your door asking for gum, tell him to chew on your rubber bum and offer him a York Peppermint Pattie instead. At 150 calories for three pieces and just three grams of fat, you can bet your waistline that you won’t have anything to scream about.
- Sugar-free Twizzlers: It’s impossible to tell the difference between sugar-free Twizzlers and their sugar-laden counterpart unless your taste buds are accomplices of the CIA. You’re getting a pretty sweet deal for six pieces at 130 calories. Plus, its sugar alternative maltitol gets released into your blood stream slower, preventing the jitters and inevitable sugar crash. It’s also fun to use Twizzlers as a straw for your drink (my proud grade three discovery).
Now for the criminal offenses of candy:
- Oh Henry!: There’s a reason caloriecount.com grades Oh Henry! bars with a D – for Depressing amount of calories. For a 62.5 gram bar, you’re wasting 320 calories, 17 grams of fat, and 29 grams of sugar. It seems that the only redeeming factor in this bar is the fibrous peanuts, but the parka of caramel and chocolate that envelopes them foreshadows what you’re going to be wearing in order to hide your subsequent weight gain. Harsh, but true.
- Snickers: While you’re munching on a Snickers bar, somewhere in hell the candy devil is snickering because you weren’t aware of its trans-fat content. Companies are not legally obliged to indicate trans-fat content on a label if it amounts to less than one gram, but 0.257 grams in a Snickers bar is not something to ignore. According to Health Canada, trans-fat, the artificially-manufactured oil used to preserve a food’s shelf-life, can actually increase your risk of heart disease. Don’t have the last Snicker, but instead have the last laugh by leaving this 270 calorie treat with 14 grams of fat on the shelf.
- Skittles: You’ll get so high off of Skittles’ sugar content that tasting the rainbow won’t even seem so far out of reach. Sorry Sour Skittle lovers, but at 230 calories per bag containing 43 grams of sugar, some of it in the form of high fructose corn syrup, you’re better off swallowing a bunch of sugar packets. Don’t be fooled by Skittles’ colourful jackets â€“ they’re hiding 0.05 grams of trans-fat per serving in their pockets. Those sneaky bastards.
So there you have it, folks.The proof is in the pudding, bag of chips, or center of the Tootsie Pop. It is your prerogative to permanently leave your mouth ajar as a trap for lemon drops and gummy bears this Halloween, but just be cognizant that a candy binge’s aftermath leaves more of an impact than a hangover.
The most important thing, above all else, is to monitor the portion of what you’re eating, rather than what it is, according to Carol Haberman, a registered dietitian.
“You could go online and compare the nutritional information for various popular candies,” she suggests. “Look at calories, total fat, and the percentage of saturated fat. Be sure to use the same serving size for all of the candies [e.g. 100 grams] so you’re comparing like against like.”
A picture is definitely not worth a thousand calories, so this Halloween, let’s try following Sherman’s lead.
“I’m always online looking at pictures of cupcakes and searching for new recipes,” Sherman says. “But yeah, it would be much easier to be addicted to fruit or lettuce or something.”
Life would certainly be sweeter if lettuce tasted like lollipops.